1286 Jan 1
, Scotland

When King Alexander III ruled Scotland, his reign had seen a period of peace and economic stability. On 19 March 1286, however, Alexander died after falling from his horse. The heir to the throne was Alexander's granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway. As she was still a child and in Norway, the Scottish lords set up a government of guardians. Margaret fell ill on the voyage to Scotland and died in Orkney on 26 September 1290. The lack of a clear heir led to a period known as Competitors for the Crown of Scotland or the "Great Cause", with several families laying claim to the throne.

With Scotland threatening to descend into civil war, King Edward I of England was invited in by the Scottish nobility to arbitrate. Before the process could begin, he insisted that all of the contenders recognise him as lord paramount. In early November 1292, at a great feudal court held in the castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed, judgement was given in favour of John Balliol having the strongest claim in law.

Edward proceeded to reverse the rulings of the Scottish lords and even summoned King John Balliol to stand before the English court as a common plaintiff. John was a weak king, known as "Toom Tabard" or "Empty Coat". John renounced his homage in March 1296.

Homage of Edward I (kneeling) to Philip IV (seated). As Duke of Aquitaine, Edward was a vassal to the French king. Painting made in 15th century

Scots ally with France

1295 Jan 1
, France

By 1295, King John of Scotland and the Scottish Council of Twelve felt that Edward I of England sought to subjugate Scotland. Edward asserted his authority over Scotland, requiring appeals on cases ruled on by the court of guardians that had governed Scotland during the interregnum, to be heard in England. In a case brought by Macduff, son of Malcolm, Earl of Fife, Edward demanded that King John appear in person before the English Parliament to answer the charges, which King John refused to appear in person, sending the Henry, Abbot of Arbroath. Edward I also demanded that the Scottish magnates provide military service in the war against France. In response Scotland sought alliances with King Philippe IV of France, with embassies sent in October 1295, that resulted in the Treaty of Paris in February 1296.

Upon the discovery of the alliance of Scotland with France, Edward I ordered an English army to muster in Newcastle upon Tyne in March 1296. Edward I also demanded the Scottish border castles of Roxburgh, Jedburgh and Berwick, be handed over to English forces.

English invade Scotland | ©Graham Turner

English invade Scotland

1296 Jan 1
, Berwick-upon-Tweed

The English army crossed the Tweed River on 28 March 1296 and proceeded to the priory of Coldstream, staying there overnight. The English army then marched towards the town of Berwick, Scotland's most important trading port, at that time. Berwick's garrison was commanded by William the Hardy, Lord of Douglas, while the English army was led by Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford. The English succeeded in entering the town and began to sack Berwick, with contemporary accounts of the number of townspeople slain range from between 4,000 and 17,000. The English then began a siege of Berwick Castle, whereupon Douglas surrendered it upon conditions that his life and those of his garrison were spared.

Battle of Dunbar | ©Peter Dennis

Battle of Dunbar

1296 Apr 27
, Dunbar

Edward I and the English army remained at Berwick for a month, supervising the strengthening of its defences. On 5 April, Edward I received a message from the Scottish king renouncing his homage to Edward I. The next objective was Patrick, Earl of March's castle at Dunbar, a few miles up the coast from Berwick, that had been occupied by the Scots. Edward I sent one of his chief lieutenants, John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, John Balliol's own father-in-law, northwards with a strong force of knights to lay siege to the stronghold. The Dunbar defenders sent messages to John, who caught up with the main body of the Scottish army at Haddington, requesting urgent assistance. In response the Scots army, advanced to the rescue of Dunbar Castle. John did not accompany the army.

The two forces came in sight of each other on 27 April. The Scots occupied a strong position on some high ground to the west. To meet them, Surrey's cavalry had to cross a gully intersected by the Spott Burn. As they did so their ranks broke up, and the Scots, deluded into thinking the English were leaving the field, abandoned their position in a disorderly downhill charge, only to find that Surrey's forces had reformed on Spottsmuir and were advancing in perfect order. The English routed the disorganised Scots in a single charge. The action was brief and probably not very bloody.

The battle of Dunbar effectively ended the war of 1296 with an English victory. John Balliol surrendered and submitted himself to a protracted abasement. At Kincardine Castle on 2 July he confessed to rebellion and prayed for forgiveness. Five days later in the kirkyard of Stracathro he abandoned the treaty with the French.

Open Rebellion | ©Angus McBride

Open Rebellion

1297 Jan 1
, Scotland

Edward I had crushed the Scots army, with many of the Scots nobility in captivity, he set about stripping Scotland of its statehood of identity, with the removal of the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish crown, the Black Rood of St Margaret all taken from Scotland and sent to Westminster Abbey, England.

The English occupation led to revolts during 1297 in northern and southern Scotland led by Andrew Moray in the north and William Wallace in the south. Moray quickly gathered a band of like-minded patriots, and employing hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, began to attack and devastate every English-garrisoned castle from Banff to Inverness. The entire province of Moray was soon in revolt against King Edward I's men, and before long Moray had secured Moray province, leaving him free to turn his attention to the rest of the northeast of Scotland.

William Wallace rose to prominence in May 1297, when he killed Sir William Haselrig, the English sheriff of Lanark, and members of his garrison at Lanark. It is possible Sir Richard Lundie helped in the attack. When news of Wallace's attack on the English rippled throughout Scotland, men rallied to him. The rebels were supported by Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, who longed for the defeat of the English. The blessing of Wishart gave Wallace and his soldiers a degree of respectability. Previously, Scottish nobles had considered them mere outlaws. He was soon joined by Sir William Douglas and others.

Battle of Stirling Bridge

Battle of Stirling Bridge

1297 Sep 11
, Stirling Old Bridge

On hearing about the start of an aristocratic uprising, Edward I, although engaged in events in France, sent a force of foot soldiers and horsemen under Sir Henry Percy and Sir Robert Clifford to resolve the "Scottish problem".

While laying siege to Dundee Castle, Wallace heard that an English army was again advancing north, this time under John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey. Wallace put the leading men of the town of Dundee in charge of the castle's siege and moved to halt the advance of the English army. Wallace and Moray, who had recently combined their forces, deployed on the Ochil Hills overlooking the bridge crossing the River Forth at Stirling and prepared to meet the English in battle.

On 11 September 1297, Scottish forces, under the joint command of Moray and Wallace, met the Earl of Surrey's army, at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The Scottish army deployed to the north-east of the bridge, and let the vanguard of Surrey's army cross the bridge before attacking. The English cavalry proved ineffective on the boggy ground around the bridge, and many of them were killed. The bridge collapsed when English reinforcements were crossing. The English on the opposite side of the river then fled the battlefield. The Scots suffered relatively light casualties, but the death from wounds of Andrew Moray dealt a profound blow to the Scottish cause. Stirling Bridge was the first key victory for the Scots.

Wallace invades England | ©Angus McBride

Wallace invades Northern England

1297 Oct 18
, Northumberland

After clearing the English out of Scotland, Wallace turned his mind to the administration of the country. One of his early intentions was to reestablish commercial and diplomatic ties with Europe and win back the overseas trade that Scotland had enjoyed under Alexander III. Any evidence of his administrative acumen was probably destroyed by Edward's officials after Wallace's execution. There is, however, one Latin document in the archives of the Hanseatic town of Lübeck, which was sent on 11 October 1297 by "Andrew de Moray and William Wallace, leaders of the kingdom of Scotland and the community of the realm." It told the merchants of Lübeck and Hamburg that they now had free access to all parts of the kingdom of Scotland, which had, by favour of God, been recovered by war from the English.

Only one week after this document was signed, Wallace mounted an invasion of England. Crossing into Northumberland, the Scots followed the English army fleeing south in disarray. Caught between two armies, hundreds of refugees fled to safety behind the walls of Newcastle. The Scots laid waste a swathe of countryside before wheeling west into Cumberland and pillaging all the way to Cockermouth, before Wallace led his men back into Northumberland and fired 700 villages. On his return from England, laden with booty, Wallace found himself at the pinnacle of his power.

Wallace appointed Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland

Guardian of Scotland

1298 Mar 1
, Scotland

In March 1298, Wallace was knighted, reputedly by one of the leading nobles of Scotland, and was appointed Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland in the name of the exiled King John Balliol. He began preparations for a confrontation with Edward.

English longbowmen were effective during the Battle of Falkirk | ©Graham Turner

Battle of Falkirk

1298 Jul 22
, Falkirk

King Edward learned of the defeat of his northern army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. In January 1298, Philip IV of France had signed a truce with Edward that did not include Scotland, thereby deserting his Scots allies. Edward returned to England from campaigning in France in March and called for his army to assemble. He moved the seat of government to York.

On 3 July he invaded Scotland, intending to crush Wallace and all those daring to assert Scotland's independence. On 22 July, Edward's army attacked a much smaller Scottish force led by Wallace near Falkirk. The English army had a technological advantage. Longbowmen slaughtered Wallace's spearmen and cavalry by firing scores of arrows over great distances. Many Scots were killed at the Battle of Falkirk. Despite the victory, Edward and his army soon returned to England and thus failed to subdue Scotland completely. But the defeat had ruined Wallace's military reputation. He retreated to thick woods nearby and resigned his guardianship in December.

Edward invades Scotland again | ©Graham Turner

Edward invades Scotland again

1300 May 1
, Annandale

Wallace was succeeded as Guardian of the Kingdom jointly by Robert Bruce and John Comyn, but they could not see past their personal differences. This brought another shift in the political situation. During 1299, diplomatic pressure from France and Rome persuaded Edward to release the imprisoned King John into the custody of the Pope. The papacy also condemned Edward's invasions and occupation of Scotland in the Papal bull Scimus, Fili. The bull ordered Edward to desist his attacks and start negotiations with Scotland. However, Edward ignored the bull.

William Wallace was sent to Europe to try to gain further support for the Scottish cause. Wallace went to France to seek the aid of Philip IV, and he possibly went on to Rome. William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews, was appointed as a third, neutral Guardian to try to maintain order between Bruce and Comyn. The Scots also recaptured Stirling Castle.

In May 1300, Edward I led a campaign into Scotland, invading Annandale and Galloway. With the success of the English at Falkirk two years earlier, Edward must have felt in a position to bring Scotland under full control permanently. To do this required further campaigning, eliminating the last opposition and securing castles that were (or would be) centres of resistance. The English took control of Caerlaverock Castle, but apart from some small skirmishes, there was no action. In August, the Pope sent a letter demanding that Edward withdraw from Scotland. Due to the lack of success, Edward arranged a truce with the Scots on 30 October and returned to England.

Sixth Campaign

Sixth Campaign

1301 Jul 1 - 1302 Jan
, Linlithgow

In July 1301, Edward launched his sixth campaign into Scotland, aiming to conquer Scotland in a two-pronged attack. One army was commanded by his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, the other, the larger, was under his own command. The prince was to take the southwestern lands and the greater glory, so his father hoped. But the prince held cautiously to the Solway coast. Scot forces, commanded by de Soulis and de Umfraville, attacked the prince's army at Lochmaben in early September and maintained contact with his army as it captured Robert the Bruce's Turnberry Castle. They also threatened the king's army at Bothwell, which he captured in September. The two English armies met to winter at Linlithgow without having damaged the Scots' fighting ability. In January 1302, Edward agreed to a nine-month truce.

France signs peace treaty with England | ©Angus McBride

France signs peace treaty with England

1303 May 1
, France

The Treaty of Paris ended the Anglo-French War of 1294–1303, and was signed on 20 May 1303 between Philip IV of France and Edward I of England. Based on the terms of the treaty, Gascony was restored to England from France following its occupation during the war, thus setting the stage for the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). Moreover, it was confirmed that Philip's daughter would marry Edward's son (the later Edward II of England), as already agreed in the Treaty of Montreuil (1299).

Invasion of 1303 | ©Angus McBride

Invasion of 1303

1303 May 1 - 1304
, Scotland

Edward I was now free from embarrassment abroad and at home, and having made preparations for the final conquest of Scotland, he commenced his invasion in the middle of May 1303. His army was arranged in two divisions—one under himself and the other under the Prince of Wales. Edward advanced in the east and his son entered Scotland by the west, but his advance was checked at several points by Wallace. King Edward reached Edinburgh by June, then marched by Linlithgow and Stirling to Perth. Comyn, with the small force under his command, could not hope to defeat Edward's forces. Edward stayed in Perth until July, then proceeded, via Dundee, Montrose and Brechin, to Aberdeen, arriving in August. From there, he marched through Moray, before his progress continued to Badenoch, before re-tracing his path back south to Dunfermline, where he stayed through the winter.

Early in 1304, Edward sent a raiding party into the borders, which put to flight the forces under Fraser and Wallace. With the country now under submission, all the leading Scots surrendered to Edward in February, except for Wallace, Fraser, and Soulis, who was in France. Terms of submission were negotiated on 9 February by John Comyn, who refused to surrender unconditionally, but asked that prisoners of both sides be released by ransom and that Edward agree there would be no reprisals or disinheritance of the Scots.

Excepting William Wallace and John de Soulis, it seemed that all would be forgiven after some of the more famous leaders were exiled from Scotland for various periods. Forfeited estates could be recovered by payment of fines levied in amounts deemed appropriate for each individual's betrayal. Inheritances would continue as they always had, allowing the landed nobility to pass on titles and properties as normal.

De Soulis remained abroad, refusing to surrender. Wallace was still at large in Scotland and, unlike all the nobles and bishops, refused to pay homage to Edward. Edward needed to make an example of someone, and, by refusing to capitulate and accept his country's occupation and annexation, Wallace became the unfortunate focus of Edward's hatred. He would be granted no peace unless he put himself utterly and absolutely under Edward's will. It was also decreed that James Stewart, de Soulis and Sir Ingram de Umfraville could not return until Wallace was given up, and Comyn, Alexander Lindsay, David Graham and Simon Fraser were to actively seek his capture.

Siege of Stirling Castle | ©Bob Marshall

Siege of Stirling Castle

1304 Apr 1 - Jul 22
, Stirling Castle

After the defeat of William Wallace's Scots army at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, it took Edward I six years to gain full control of Scotland. The last stronghold of resistance to English rule was Stirling Castle. Armed with twelve siege engines, the English laid siege to the castle in April 1304. For four months the castle was bombarded by lead balls (stripped from nearby church roofs), Greek fire, stone balls, and even some sort of gunpowder mixture. Edward I had sulphur and saltpetre, components of gunpowder, brought to the siege from England.

Impatient with the lack of progress, Edward ordered his chief engineer, Master James of St. George, to begin work on a new, more massive engine called Warwolf (a trebuchet). The castle's garrison of 30, led by William Oliphant, eventually were allowed to surrender on 24 July after Edward had previously refused to accept surrender until the Warwolf had been tested.

Despite previous threats, Edward spared all the Scots in the garrison and executed only one Englishman who had previously given over the castle to the Scots. Sir William Oliphant was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Trial of Wallace

Capture of William Wallace

1305 Aug 3
, London Bridge

While all this took place, William Wallace was finally captured at Robroyston near Glasgow on 3 August 1305. He was delivered to the English by retainers in the service of Sir John Menteith. Wallace had been easily the most hunted man in Scotland for years, but especially for the past eighteen months.

He was quickly taken through the Scottish countryside, his legs bound beneath his horse, towards London, where, after a show trial, the English authorities had him executed on 23 August 1305, at the Elms of Smithfield in the traditional manner for a traitor. He was hanged, then drawn and quartered, and his head placed on a spike on London Bridge. The English government displayed his limbs separately in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling, and Perth.

The killing of John Comyn in the Greyfriars church in Dumfries | ©Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

Bruce murders John Comyn

1306 Feb 6
, Dumfries

Bruce arrived in Dumfries and found Comyn there. At a private meeting with Comyn on 6 February 1306 at the Greyfriars Church, Bruce reproached Comyn for his treachery, which Comyn denied. Furious, Bruce drew his dagger and stabbed, though not mortally, his betrayer. As Bruce ran from the church, his attendants, Kirkpatrick and Lindsay, entered and, finding Comyn still alive, killed him. Bruce and his followers then forced the local English judges to surrender their castle. Bruce realised that the die had been cast and that he had no alternative except to become either a king or a fugitive. The murder of Comyn was an act of sacrilege, and he faced a future as an excommunicate and an outlaw. However his pact with Lamberton and the support of the Scottish church, who were prepared to take his side in defiance of Rome, proved to be of great importance at this key moment when Bruce asserted his claim to the Scottish throne.

Bruce addresses his troops, from Cassell's History of England.

Robert the Bruce crowned King of Scotland

1306 Mar 25
, Scone

He went to Glasgow and met with the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart. Rather than excommunicate Bruce, Wishart absolved him and urged people to rise in his support. They both then travelled to Scone, where they were met by Lamberton and other prominent churchmen and nobles. Less than seven weeks after the killing in Dumfries, at Scone Abbey on 25 March 1306, Robert Bruce was crowned as King Robert I of Scotland.

Battle of Methven

Battle of Methven

1306 Jun 19
, Methven

Enraged by the killing of John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch by Bruce and his followers at Dumfries and Bruce’s coronation Edward I of England named Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, special lieutenant for Scotland. Pembroke moved quickly, and by the middle of summer he had made his base at Perth, along with Henry Percy and Robert Clifford and an army of about 3000 men drawn from the northern counties. Edward I gave orders that no mercy was to be granted and all taken in arms were to be executed without trial.

It is possible that this word had not reached the king because he resorted to a chivalric tradition and called on de Valence to come out from the walls of Perth and do battle. De Valence, who had the reputation of an honorable man, made the excuse that it was too late in the day to do battle and said he would accept the challenge on the following day. The king bivouacked his army some six miles away in some woods that were on high ground near the River Almond. At about dusk as the Bruce's army made camp and many disarmed, the army of Aymer de Valence fell upon them in a surprise attack.

The king unhorsed the Earl of Pembroke in the first onslaught but was unhorsed himself and nearly captured by Sir Philip Mowbray only to be saved by Sir Christopher Seton. Outnumbered and taken by surprise, the king's force had no chance. Bruce was twice more unhorsed and twice more rescued. At the last, a small force of Scottish knights including James Douglas, Neil Campbell, Edward Bruce, John de Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl, Gilbert de Haye and the king formed a phalanx to break free and were forced to flee in a shattering defeat, leaving many of the king's most loyal followers dead or soon to be executed. After being defeated at the battle, the king was driven from the Scottish mainland as an outlaw. 

Outlaw King

Outlaw King

1307 Feb 1
, Carrick

It is still uncertain where Bruce spent the winter of 1306–07. Most likely he spent it in the Hebrides, possibly sheltered by Christina of the Isles. The latter was married to a member of the Mar kindred, a family to which Bruce was related (not only was his first wife a member of this family but her brother, Gartnait, was married to a sister of Bruce). Ireland is also a serious possibility, and Orkney (under Norwegian rule at the time) or Norway proper (where his sister Isabel Bruce was queen dowager) are unlikely but not impossible. Bruce and his followers returned to the Scottish mainland in February 1307.

In February 1307 King Robert crossed from the island of Arran in the Firth of Clyde to his own earldom of Carrick, in Ayrshire, landing near Turnberry, where he knew the local people would be sympathetic, but where all the strongholds were held by the English. He attacked the town of Turnberry where many English soldiers were garrisoned inflicting many deaths and gaining a substantial amount of loot. A similar landing by his brothers Thomas and Alexander in Galloway met with disaster on the shores of Loch Ryan at the hands of Dungal MacDouall, the principal Balliol adherent in the region. Thomas and Alexander's army of Irish and Islemen was destroyed, and they were sent as captives to Carlisle, where they were later executed on the orders of Edward I. King Robert established himself in the hill country of Carrick and Galloway.

King Robert had learned well the sharp lesson delivered at Methven: never again would he allow himself to be trapped by a stronger enemy. His greatest weapon was his intimate knowledge of the Scottish countryside, which he used to his advantage. As well as making good use of the country's natural defences, he made sure that his force was as mobile as possible. King Robert was now fully aware that he could rarely expect to get the better of the English in open battle. His army was often weak in numbers and ill-equipped. It would be best used in small hit-and-run raids, allowing the best use of limited resources. He would keep the initiative and prevent the enemy from bringing his superior strength to bear. Whenever possible, crops would be destroyed and livestock removed from the path of the enemy's advance, denying him fresh supplies and fodder for the heavy war horses. Most important of all, King Robert recognised the seasonal nature of English invasions, which swept over the country like summer tides, only to withdraw before the onset of winter.

Battle of Loudoun Hill

Battle of Loudoun Hill

1307 May 10
, Loudoun Hill Farm

King Robert won his first small success at Glen Trool, where he ambushed an English force led by Aymer de Valence, attacking from above with boulders and archers and driving them off with heavy losses. He then passed through the moors by Dalmellington to Muirkirk, appearing in the north of Ayrshire in early May, where his army was strengthened by fresh recruits. Here he soon encountered Aymer de Valence, commanding the main English force in the area. In preparing to meet him he took up a position on 10 May on a plain south of Loudoun Hill, some 500 yards wide and bounded on either side by deep morasses.

Valence's only approach was over the highway through the bog, where the parallel ditches the king's men dug outwards from the marsh restricted his room for deployment, with the ditches in front of the Scots impeding him still further, effectively neutralizing his advantage in numbers. Valence was forced to attack along a narrowly constricted front upwards towards the waiting enemy spears. It was a battle reminiscent in some ways of Stirling Bridge, with the same 'filtering' effect at work.

A frontal charge by the English knights was stopped by the king's spearmen militia, who effectively slaughtered them as they were on unfavourable ground, thus the militia soon defeated the knights. As the king's spearmen pressed downhill on the disorganised knights, they fought with such vigour that the rear ranks of the English began to flee in panic. A hundred or more were killed in the battle, while Aymer de Valence managed to escape the carnage and fled to the safety of Bothwell Castle.

Bruce defeats Comyn and the MacDougalls

Bruce defeats Comyn and the MacDougalls

1308 May 23
, Oldmeldrum

Transferring operations to Aberdeenshire in late 1307, Bruce threatened Banff before falling seriously ill, probably owing to the hardships of the lengthy campaign. Recovering, leaving John Comyn, 3rd Earl of Buchan unsubdued at his rear, Bruce returned west to take Balvenie and Duffus Castles, then Tarradale Castle on the Black Isle. Looping back via the hinterlands of Inverness and a second failed attempt to take Elgin, Bruce finally achieved his landmark defeat of Comyn at the Battle of Inverurie in May 1308; he then overran Buchan and defeated the English garrison at Aberdeen. The Harrying of Buchan in 1308 was ordered by Bruce to make sure all Comyn family support was extinguished. Buchan had a very large population because it was the agricultural capital of northern Scotland, and much of its population was loyal to the Comyn family even after the defeat of the Earl of Buchan. Most of the Comyn castles in Moray, Aberdeen and Buchan were destroyed and their inhabitants killed. In less than a year Bruce had swept through the north and destroyed the power of the Comyns who had held vice-regal power in the north for nearly one hundred years. How this dramatic success was achieved, especially the taking of northern castles so quickly, is difficult to understand. Bruce lacked siege weapons and it's unlikely his army had substantially greater numbers or was better armed than his opponents. The morale and leadership of the Comyns and their northern allies appeared to be inexplicably lacking in the face of their direst challenge. He then crossed to Argyll and defeated the isolated MacDougalls (allies of the Comyns) at the Battle of Pass of Brander and took Dunstaffnage Castle, the last major stronghold of the Comyns and their allies. Bruce then ordered harryings in Argyle and Kintyre, in the territories of Clan MacDougall.

King Robert's first parliament

King Robert's first parliament

1309 Mar 1
, St Andrews

In March 1309, Bruce held his first parliament at St. Andrews and by August he controlled all of Scotland north of the River Tay. The following year, the clergy of Scotland recognised Bruce as king at a general council. The support given him by the church, in spite of his excommunication, was of great political importance. On 1 October 1310 Bruce wrote Edward II of England from Kildrum in Cumbernauld Parish in an unsuccessful attempt to establish peace between Scotland and England. Over the next three years, one English-held castle or outpost after another was captured and reduced: Linlithgow in 1310, Dumbarton in 1311, and Perth, by Bruce himself, in January 1312. Bruce also made raids into northern England and, landing at Ramsey in the Isle of Man, laid siege to Castle Rushen in Castletown, capturing it on 21 June 1313 and denying the English the island's strategic importance.

Battle of Bannockburn | ©Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

Battle of Bannockburn

1314 Jun 23 - Jun 24
, Bannockburn

By 1314, Bruce had recaptured most of the castles in Scotland held by the English and was sending raiding parties into northern England as far as Carlisle. In response, Edward II planned a major military campaign with the support of Lancaster and the barons, mustering a large army of between 15,000 and 20,000 men. In the spring of 1314, Edward Bruce laid siege to Stirling Castle, a key fortification in Scotland whose governor, Philip de Mowbray, agreed to surrender if not relieved before 24 June 1314. In March, James Douglas captured Roxburgh, and Randolph captured Edinburgh Castle (Bruce later ordered the execution of Piers de Lombard, governor of the castle), while in May, Bruce again raided England and subdued the Isle of Man. News of the agreement regarding Stirling Castle reached the English king in late May, and he decided to speed his march north from Berwick to relieve the castle. Robert, with between 5,500 and 6,500 troops, predominantly spearmen, prepared to prevent Edward's forces from reaching Stirling.

The battle began on 23 June as the English army attempted to force its way across the high ground of the Bannock Burn, which was surrounded by marshland. Skirmishing between the two sides broke out, resulting in the death of Sir Henry de Bohun, whom Robert killed in personal combat. Edward continued his advance the following day, and encountered the bulk of the Scottish army as they emerged from the woods of New Park. The English appear not to have expected the Scots to give battle here, and as a result had kept their forces in marching, rather than battle, order, with the archers − who would usually have been used to break up enemy spear formations − at the back, rather than the front, of the army. The English cavalry found it hard to operate in the cramped terrain and were crushed by Robert's spearmen. The English army was overwhelmed and its leaders were unable to regain control.

Edward II was dragged from the battlefield, hotly pursued by the Scottish forces, and only just escaped the heavy fighting. In the aftermath of the defeat, Edward retreated to Dunbar, then travelled by ship to Berwick, and then back to York; in his absence, Stirling Castle quickly fell.

Bruce campaign in Ireland | ©Angus McBride

Bruce campaign in Ireland

1315 May 26 - 1318 Oct 14
, Ireland

Freed from English threats, Scotland's armies could now invade northern England. Bruce also drove back a subsequent English expedition north of the border and launched raids into Yorkshire and Lancashire. Buoyed by his military successes, Robert also sent his brother Edward to invade Ireland in 1315, in an attempt to assist the Irish lords in repelling English incursions in their kingdoms and to regain all the lands they had lost to the Crown (having received a reply to offers of assistance from Domhnall Ó Néill, king of Tír Eoghain), and to open a second front in the continuing wars with England. Edward was even crowned as High King of Ireland in 1316. Robert later went there with another army to assist his brother.

Initially, the Scot-Irish army seemed unstoppable as they defeated the English again and again and levelled their towns. However, the Scots failed to win over the non-Ulster chiefs or to make any other significant gains in the south of the island, where people couldn't see the difference between English and Scottish occupation. This was because a famine struck Ireland and the army struggled to sustain itself. They resorted to pillaging and razing entire settlements as they searched for supplies, regardless of whether they were English or Irish. Eventually it was defeated when Edward Bruce was killed at the Battle of Faughart. The Irish Annals of the period described the defeat of the Bruces by the English as one of the greatest things ever done for the Irish nation due to the fact it brought an end to the famine and pillaging wrought upon the Irish by both the Scots and the English.

Weardale Campaign

Weardale Campaign

1327 Jul 1 - Aug
, Weardale

In 1326 the English king, Edward II, was deposed by his wife, Isabella, and her lover, Mortimer. England had been at war with Scotland for 30 years and the Scots took advantage of the chaotic situation to launch large raids into England. Seeing opposition to the Scots as a way of legitimising their position, Isabella and Mortimer prepared a large army to oppose them. In July 1327 this set off from York to trap the Scots and force them to battle. After two weeks of poor supplies and bad weather the English confronted the Scots when the latter deliberately gave away their position.

The Scots occupied an unassailable position immediately north of the River Wear. The English declined to attack it and the Scots declined to fight in the open. After three days the Scots moved overnight to an even stronger position. The English followed them and, that night, a Scottish force crossed the river and successfully raided the English camp, penetrating as far as the royal pavilion. The English believed that they had the Scots surrounded and were starving them out, but on the night of 6 August the Scottish army escaped and marched back to Scotland. The campaign was ruinously expensive for the English. Isabella and Mortimer were forced to negotiate with the Scots and in 1328 the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton was signed, recognising Scottish sovereignty.

End of the First War of Scottish Independence | ©Angus McBride

End of the First War of Scottish Independence

1328 May 1
, Parliament Square

The Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton was a peace treaty signed in 1328 between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. It brought an end to the First War of Scottish Independence, which had begun with the English party of Scotland in 1296. The treaty was signed in Edinburgh by Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, on 17 March 1328, and was ratified by the Parliament of England meeting in Northampton on 1 May.

The terms of the treaty stipulated that in exchange for £100,000 sterling, the English Crown would recognise:

  • The Kingdom of Scotland as fully independent
  • Robert the Bruce, and his heirs and successors, as the rightful rulers of Scotland
  • The border between Scotland and England as that recognised under the reign of Alexander III (1249–1286).


1329 Jun 7
, Dumbarton

Robert died on 7 June 1329, at the Manor of Cardross, near Dumbarton. Apart from failing to fulfill a vow to undertake a crusade he died utterly fulfilled, in that the goal of his lifetime's struggle—untrammelled recognition of the Bruce right to the crown—had been realised, and confident that he was leaving the kingdom of Scotland safely in the hands of his most trusted lieutenant, Moray, until his infant son reached adulthood. Six days after his death, to complete his triumph still further, papal bulls were issued granting the privilege of unction at the coronation of future Kings of Scots.

The Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton lasted only five years. It was unpopular with many English nobles, who viewed it as humiliating. In 1333 it was overturned by Edward III, after he had begun his personal reign, and the Second War of Scottish Independence continued until a lasting peace was established in 1357.


References for First War of Scottish Independence.

  • Scott, Ronald McNair (1989). Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. pp. 25–27
  • Innes, Essays, p. 305. Quoted in Wyckoff, Charles Truman (1897). "Introduction". Feudal Relations Between the Kings of England and Scotland Under the Early Plantagenets (PhD). Chicago: University of Chicago. p. viii.
  • Scott, Ronald McNair, Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots, p 35
  • Murison, A. F. (1899). King Robert the Bruce (reprint 2005 ed.). Kessinger Publishing. p. 30. ISBN 9781417914944.
  • Maxwell, Sir Herbert (1913). The Chronicle of Lanercost. Macmillan and Co. p. 268.